The Man in the Moon is an imaginary figure resembling a human face, head or body, that observers from some cultural backgrounds typically perceive in the bright disc of the full Moon. The figure is composed of the dark areas (the lunar maria, or "seas") and lighter highlands of the lunar surface.
In one common Western perception of the face, the figure's eyes are Mare Imbrium and Mare Serenitatis, its nose is Sinus Aestuum, and its open mouth is Mare Nubium and Mare Cognitum. An older European tradition sees a figure of a man (Maria Serenitatis, Tranquilitatis, Foecunditatis and Nectaris) carrying a wide burden (Mare Vaporum and Lacus Somniorum) on his back. He is sometimes seen as accompanied by a small dog (Mare Crisium)
A conventionalized Western image of the Man in the Moon often bears just a very simple face in the full moon, or a human profile in the crescent moon, corresponding to no actual markings.
A longstanding European tradition holds that the man was banished to the moon for some crime. Christian lore commonly held that he is the man caught gathering sticks on the sabbath and sentenced by God to death by stoning in the book of Numbers XV.32-36. Some Germanic cultures thought he was a man caught stealing from a neighbor's hedgerow to repair his own. There is a Roman legend that he is a sheep-thief.
This is mentioned again in his Paradise:
In Norse mythology, Máni is the man who pulls the Moon across the sky. He is continually pursued by the Great Wolf Hati who catches them both at Ragnarok. The name Máni simply means "Moon", but sounds very similar to the Old Norse for "human" mannligr.
The Chinese Man in the Moon is called "Yue-lao".
The Man in the Moon is an example of pareidolia. Other cultures perceive the silhouette of a woman, a hare/rabbit, a frog, a moose, a buffalo, or a dragon (with its head and mouth to the right and body and wings to the left) in the full moon. Alternatively, the vague shape of the overall dark and light regions resemble a Yin Yang symbol, on it side and backwards.
The Nepalese also have a tradition that the dead go to the Moon.
Houston: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning there's one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-o has been living there for 4000 years. It seems she was banished to the moon because she stole the pill for immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is only standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not recorded.Collins: Okay, we'll keep a close eye for the bunny girl.
In Chinese culture, the rabbit in the moon (a companion of Chang'e) is pounding medicine. Similarly, in Japan and Korea, popular culture sees a rabbit making mochi and tteok, respectively, in the moon. The mythology of Pre-Colombian Mesoamerica also featured a lunar rabbit, for example, Tecciztecatl, the Aztec moon god, was sometimes pictured as an anthropomorphic rabbit.
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